“Bread and Butter” Gayle Brandeis

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Making Questions Your Bread & Butter

In their search for a subject (or, if you like your Greek straight up, “the Muse”), writers often look for answers and revelations, but what education theorists tell us (and not enough teachers teach us), is that questions rule the land, not answers. The person adept at formulating questions is the person holding the compass, the person most likely to forge her own Northwest Passage to the Promised Land.

If your “Promised Land” is a finished piece, then the questions might look something like Gayle Brandeis’s poem “Bread and Butter,” which dwells on the simple things in life that most writers overlook, employing them instead as tools leading to something more complex.

Never forget your inner little kid (simple) who constantly asks (complex): “How?” and “Why?” Then, after reading the poem, consider your own questions in a new way — as possible goals and not just so many overlooked processes.


“Bread and Butter”
Gayle Brandeis

for Michael

I often wonder how people figured
things out—simple things like bread
and butter. How did the first person know
to grind and knead and bake,
to milk and skim and churn?
How did someone realize they could soak
olives in lye or let grape juice ferment
inside casks of oak? How, when
we first leaned toward each other,
did our tongues know to touch
before our brains knew
we were going to kiss at all?